OTR Interviews

Paula Deen Dishes Cuisine for the Hungry

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 19, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now the one and only Paula Deen goes "On the Record." Her show, "Paula's Best Dishes" premieres Saturday June 5th on the Food Network. But that is not why Paula came here to Washington. So why did she go "On the Record"?


VAN SUSTEREN: Paula, nice to see you, and welcome to our nation's capital.

PAULA DEEN: Great to be here, thank you. I've been wanting to come visit you now for a long time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Because you know how bad my cooking habits are? I thought we kept that undercover.


DEEN: I kind of had a feeling -- I'm a hard worker, and I'm a pretty good judge of character. I think you're hard worker.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm a hard worker and lousy cook. I've mastered the vending machine and that's it.

DEEN: I'm a good cook but I'm a lousy lawyer.


VAN SUSTEREN: You are a great cook and great success on many fronts. But helping hungry homes, that's what draws you here to Washington, right?

DEEN: Yes. I come to Washington a good bit for that very reason. I came to attend a baseball game and to make a delivery.

VAN SUSTEREN: "Make a delivery," what is this program? I've studied up on it, but the viewers need to know. What are you doing?

DEEN: In partnership with a wonderful group of people, Smithfield, and they are the hog people of the world. They really, really know pork. And they are kind and generous enough to be in partnership with me.

We have made a commitment over the next two years to feed 20 million hungry people. So, we are working on that very thing. And up-to-date, we are at seven million.

Like I said, I can't thank Smithfield enough for their generosity, because good banks, Greta, they get a lot of donations, a lot of support. But very, very rarely is it protein.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's what this is?

DEEN: And this is straight 30,000 and 35,000 pounds that we bring to each food bank, and it's straight protein.

VAN SUSTEREN: What started this? It started in Tampa or something?

DEEN: It did, Greta. We went down there, you know, just feeling the Christmas spirit. We heard that the Tampa food bank was running low. We went down there and made a delivery. And the woman the director of this particular food bank told me that protein would be gone by noon.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much was it?

DEEN: Like 25,000 pounds.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would be gone within three or four hours?

DEEN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Stunned you, I take it?

DEEN: Stunned me. And we said we have to do something about this. That blew my mind.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where did you get that protein? Smithfield was in it at that point?

DEEN: Yes. Like I said, it was right before Christmas. And we just felt it would be a nice, welcomed gesture, you know, for the season. And so everything has grown out of that visit to Tampa.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what happened? You talked to Smithfield and said there are a lot of hungry people out there? Did you realize there was that many?

DEEN: No. I was staggered by the number of elderly that go to bed in this country hungry, and the children. It is amazing. And being a grandmother now of a little boy that will soon be four, the thought of him going to bed hungry just like rips my heart out.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is unbelievable.

DEEN: It is unbelievable that in a country like America, the strongest nation in the world, could be having this problem.

The problem is, Greta, it's not that man on the street that you think about the man coming up and tapping on your car window and begging you for a dollar or two. This is the working hungry. This is people out there that have jobs, trying do better for them services.

And these are the people that are having to call on the food banks. Employed people that with inflation of everything by the time they get to the grocery store, their money is short. And that's sad.

VAN SUSTEREN: They are trying really hard. It is not like they are blowing it off.

DEEN: No, they are not looking for a handout. We are not looking for the government to take care of themselves. These are people that honestly trying to pull their weight.

VAN SUSTEREN: How are food banks usually funded? Is it all contributions?

DEEN: Yes, all contributions. And thank goodness there's some wonderful grocery stores out there, chains that really work hard to help feed these food banks what they need.

And of course, during the holidays people think how lucky am I? I got plenty to eat, my family, my friends. So people are very conscious of the needy that time of year. But then you tend to forget the rest of the year. And you know there's really no cure for hunger. We have to cure it every day. It comes back every day.

VAN SUSTEREN: You didn't start out a wealthy person.

DEEN: No, no, no. I started my business with $200.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you ever been hungry?

DEEN: I've been very close to it. I'll never forget the day that my aunt Peggy came to my house, with two big brown paper bags, that you get at the grocery store, full of meat. I just cried. And I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. But thank goodness she was there to help me.

VAN SUSTEREN: I hear stories about people growing up and they would be happy if they got a basket of apples. We get so busy with our lives we don't realize that there are other people who simply don't have. We see the very poor.

But it is the working poor --

DEEN: The working poor.

VAN SUSTEREN: And who are very proud.

DEEN: Yes, very proud people.

VAN SUSTEREN: And don't want to accept a handout.

DEEN: Right.


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